Her acting credits evoke thoughts of an actress twice her age. She’s shared the screen with Al Pacino in S1m0ne, Edward Norton in Down in the Valley, Michael Douglas in King of California and has worked under the direction of Ron Howard in The Missing, but, at only 20, Evan Rachel Wood has many years of accomplishments ahead of her.

After her breakthrough performance as a drug-abusing rebellious teen in Catherine Hardwicke’s Thirteen (2003), Wood proved to be an actress years ahead of her time. “The doors open in your mind when you work,” she says. “You tap into parts of yourself and learn so much about yourself and your emotions and other people as well.” Wood’s ability to immerse herself in roles is undoubtedly one part of the attraction in casting her.

Likewise, Wood’s ability to capture the truth of her characters seems to provide a cathartic experience for the actress, who admits that sometimes the roles she plays are further than one would think from her true personality. “I think the only time I really am truly true to myself is when I’m acting. That’s when I can completely forget inhibition and jump headfirst. You look at my work and you’d never know I’m shy. In real life I get scared sometimes to say something or to do something. Letting go and jumping in is something I have to work on in reality. But with acting, I’m pretty fearless.”

But if her choices as an actress are any indication—as with her role in The Wrestler, Woody Allen’s upcoming movie Whatever Works and a rumored role as literary figure Anne Brontë—there’s no doubt that Evan Rachel Wood, the person, is just as fearless.